Stump the Chinese: Kànglì 伉俪

I was at a wedding recently, and there were little cards at the center of each table that showed who was supposed to sit there. The Chinese friend I was sitting with found his name and then pointed to the characters “(伉俪)” written underneath. He somehow knew it was supposed to be pronounced “kànglì” but had no idea what it meant.

After a few minutes, another friend sat down and he asked her what it meant. She answered immediately that it meant “fūfù” 夫妇 (which he also didn’t understand on first hearing, probably for acoustic reasons though). According to her, it’s a very formal, written way of saying “husband and wife.” If you look at the characters individually, you find that means “husband and wife” and also means “husband and wife” (although I suspect really means “husband” more than “wife”).

I just always think it’s interesting when I come across whole characters that are still in use that are mysterious to Chinese people. I wonder whether my friend’s wife would have known if she’d attended.

Comments

  1. A chinese person told me that this expression is really used, though very formal. The two charachters mean “a couple”. This person couldn’t analyse the two charachters.

  2. My Chinese friend that is a book editor (so she is very literate) says it translates basically to “happy couple.” She says “good couple that each other respect and love each other.”

  3. Yes,as Pete said,the word 伉俪 means happy and respect each other. it’s a common word and used very often. I just want to say that the man you mentioned …don’t know this word, and he really need to do the homework…

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